SWISHER — Laura Eckert was teaching art and photography at Prairie High School in 2003 when a friend asked her to photograph her wedding. It went so well that Eckert launched her own business.
Then another friend — who worked assisting women in labor and after birth — suggested that Eckert consider professionally photographing the birth experiences for women.
The business grew into New Creation Photography in Swisher. Eckert will be photographing her 50th birth this spring.
“I had a lot of success as a wedding photographer,” she said, “but when it came right down to it, I loved shooting births, and those two things do not coexist very well. You can't very well tell a bride that you aren't going to show up because you have a mom in labor, so I gave up weddings completely to focus on births.”
Photographing births is a high-stress job, and Eckert — a mother of three — must be ready to go when the text comes in from a client.
“When I go to the hospital I have everything in one bag,” she said.
She photographs the birth, as long as it takes; then does the rest of the work in her home studio, editing through the hundreds of shots and preparing digital slideshows she sends to the client.
She will do printing, or create albums or canvases for those who want that.
“There are definitely times that I am both emotionally and physically exhausted,” she said. “We would love to get there an hour or two before the baby is born, but birth is so unpredictable that you just don't know how things are going to go.”
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Or how long. Once Eckert had two births to shoot, both being induced on the same day — one at Mercy Hospital, the other at St. Luke's — and both using the same OB-GYN doctor.
“I was very much back and forth trying to get both birth stories covered equally, and all day long they were neck and neck.”
Finally the The Mercy birth went fairly quickly, she said, but the St Luke's mom didn't actually deliver until 2 a.m. the next day.
“I was on kind of the same schedule as the doctor,” she said. “You go where you are needed.”
Eckert said she learned some business lessons along the way, especially when it came to pricing her services.
“Starting out, every birth photographer jumps in and wants to shoot a lot of births, so they offer it for a price that they think people will pay,” she explained. “But that leads to shooting many births for less than you would shoot a 20-minute portrait session. And when you are driving, say to Waterloo, and spending 18 hours there ... you really have to make it worth your time to do it.”
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